Recently, Peter Furler and his bandmates found themselves in a far
off place, countless miles away from all they knew and the comforts
of home. They were in Israel, near the Sea of Galilee, just miles from
the spot where bombs would be falling only months later. The newsboys
were making their very first visit to play their very first show there,
for five thousand people who had never heard of them. The crowd was
a mixture of cultures, races and creeds, from Buddhists to Muslims to
Jews - anything but the typical newsboys audience. One might think that
a band in this position would feel intimidated to the point of faltering...
But they found themselves right at home.
"The Israeli festival changed us, to say
the least. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced,"
says newsboys frontman Peter Furler. "Not
only was it a mixture of many different backgrounds, but a mixture of
beliefs as well. I didn't preach or even share, but I began quoting
a passage from memory--more in a spoken word style than anything else--during
the middle section of one song. This 'jam' went on for awhile, and as
it did, I knew something was happening. The crowd's entire countenance
shifted from skepticism to sort of a biblical worship dance, and this
wave--I don't know what else to call it--swept over the crowd."
As Furler speaks of the event, you can't help but believe that something
holy is behind this story. Beyond Grammys,
gold records or merchandise sales. Beyond
the comfort of domestic market success. The newsboys have developed
a genuine love for those abroad. Say what you will, but this is a unit
of men who have pushed past mere industry accolades to an international
fulfillment of the Great Commission.
This is who they are, at this moment in time.
On Go, their new release (and first pop record in four years),
the band has committed to continuing outward on this journey, completing
the circle they began etching across the nations two decades ago.
Fourteen albums ago, long before a separate culture was established
to house the bands which would follow in their wake, the newsboys began
with a singular motivation. They sought to play music infused with life
and hope for all who would listen, for all those who most needed to
hear it. It was dimly-lit bars and seedy night clubs where they first
performed for open ears in their native Australia. And it was in this
environment that a vision began which would carry newsboys across international
barriers of language, culture and race.
"We played a show
in Morocco not long ago for about 15,000 Muslims, and it was like
something out of Indiana Jones," recalls Furler. "Snake
charmers, people eating eyeballs, etc. This is a place where the name
of Jesus will get you killed! Nevertheless, His name went out subtly
through our songs, and when it did it was probably the loudest His name
had been spoken there in ages. It's a dark place, for certain. But we
were able to love these people by just living with them for a
few days. That's what it's about."
For inspiration when writing Go, Furler didn't turn to his record
collection, the radio or even MTV. Instead, he just wrote music, alone,
in his own headspace. And if you ask him about this unique approach,
he will tell you that his biggest influence after fourteen albums is
himself: his experiences, the journey he has traveled. According to
Furler, there can be nothing more stimulating than this. The aforementioned
stories have provided more than enough backdrop.
"If you aren't making music from the right
place, then it won't be authentic, people will not connect with it,
and your record will be sitting on a shelf. On the other hand, if you
write from that place of true passion, without trying to make something
commercial or forced, then the result will be natural. People will be
drawn to it," Furler explains.
Go, though pop in structure and sensibility, is a very rhythmic approach
to the newsboys sound. Beat, bass and melody drive these songs. There
are subtleties of urban influence, with the memorable choruses you have
come to expect from this quintet. This is the band at their most confident;
the record sounds like guys who are as excited as they have ever been
to play, to sing. It is as if they have just begun...
On "Beautiful," Furler makes this mantra clear: »I
wanna start it over. I wanna start again. There's a new beginning, one
without an end. I feel it inside calling out to me.« And on
the title track, he speaks of being sent from above to befriend the
distant: »GO...From the top of the world, to the bottom rung.
'Til the work is done, I wanna send you. GO...From the break of the
dawn, to the age's end. Somebody's needing a friend. I wanna send you.«
They have found a brand new peace, a joy in touching the wounded. Just
listen to the words of "Wherever We Go" for evidence. »Wherever
we're led, all the living and the dead wannna leave their zombie mob.
It's a touching scene when they all come clean. God help us, we just
love our job.«
You might just as easily catch the newsboys opening for REO
Brown or John
Fogerty these days as find them at a Christian market event. They
have even shared the stage with Styx
since releasing their previous effort. With willing hearts, there seem
to be more open doors on the near horizon. Though they are CCM staples--and
will most likely continue to be--their focus will remain in branching
out as far as this music takes them.
And they will...
"It seems to me there are three types of
believers in this world," Furler concludes. "There
is the judgmental guy who spends most of his energy pointing out what
is wrong around him and doing very little about it. There is the backslidden
guy, who wallows in his own failures. Then there is the real guy, who
just tries to love other people and be about the kingdom more than anything
else. I want to be the third guy. I want to be known for loving others
of different backgrounds and different beliefs no matter the cost."